Kangaroos with a strong taste for carrots are attacking people at a popular tourist destination to get their paws on some more orange gold and other snacks routinely offered up by visitors.
Tourists who a turning up to the unlikely visitor hotspot of Morisset Hospital in southern Lake Macquarie, NSW, where large numbers of kangaroos can reliably be found grazing on the grassy slopes, are walking away with cuts and lacerations from the aggressive marsupials.
They go for the perfect kangaroo selfie, but sometimes leave with injuries needing attention from the nearby hospital, news.com.au reports.
The site is less than two hours' drive from Sydney and travel blogs and popular sites like TripAdvisor promote the spot as a being full of "adorable wild kangaroos" that are "tame enough to get close to and take photos with".
But local authorities are warning about the dangers of getting too close after one person was left with 17 stitches in their face and another taken away by ambulance with severe cuts to their stomach.
Local MP Greg Piper has posted a video to Facebook about what he called the "tourist phenomenon", warning people not to feed the kangaroos at what has become the town's biggest attraction.
"A big part of that has become feeding the kangaroos, despite multiple warnings against it," he said.
"Due to the feeding that has occurred, these kangaroos are not just desensitised to human contact, they will literally come to you looking for food. This behaviour can actually lead to aggression, particularly from male kangaroos.
"What many tourists seem to overlook is that these are wild animals — they are equipped with long, sharp claws and they do actually injure people from time to time."
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Although incidents are rare compared to the number of visitors, big male bucks can cause serious harm, especially when they're after another free feed.
"They can grab and most concerningly, they can deliver a powerful kick," Mr Piper said.
'17 STITCHES IN THEIR FACE'
Shane Lewis, the operator of a local shuttle service which takes tourists to the site, has seen a number of serious injuries caused by the excitable animals.
"We have seen a lot of people get injured through feeding the kangaroos where they've been kicked, scratched. One person even got 17 stitches in their face," he said in the same video.
"There's been scratches on shoulders, body limbs, one guy even left in an ambulance where his whole stomach got cut from side to side."
Tourists who visit the site often take carrots to feed the marsupials, as well as other food items. Now, the kangaroos have been conditioned to expect food and are no longer cautious or afraid of humans.
Andrew Daly, an animal keeper at the Australian Reptile Park told the ABC that carrots were no better than junk food for the kangaroos and that the tourist behaviour could lead a type of addiction among the animals.
"If they see a carrot and they've been fed a carrot 100 times before by a tourist, then they're going to come up and take that carrot," he said.
"And in doing so they can be quite aggressive. They can kick, they can scratch with their front paws and do quite a bit of damage, especially when they're trying to get those foods that they really like, or could be addicted to."
Mr Lewis, who operates the Kroosn Shuttle Service, has been working with local authorities to help educate tourists about not feeding the kangaroos.
"We do supply transport from Morisset station to the kangaroos for viewing and pictures only, we advise of the dangers that can lead to getting too close to these animals and we strongly advise against feeding them," the company wrote in a recent Facebook post.